Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Spring Biking in Glacier National Park
If you’re visiting Glacier National Park in May or June, biking the Going to the Sun Road is a must do! In the spring, the famous road is closed to cars and perfect for biking. In most years, you can bike big portions of the road without cars from about Mother’s Day till mid-late June, when the alpine section of the Sun Road typically opens to cars.
We rent bikes and e-bikes, and guide bike and e-bike tours of the Going to the Sun Road in the spring. As a result, over the years we’ve answered just about every question you can think of when it comes to biking the Sun Road.
Here are our Top FAQ About Biking the Going to the Sun Road in the spring. Read on for our answers to these questions!
Top 10 FAQ: Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road
- #1 How Long Is The Ride?
- #2 How Much Elevation Do You Gain?
- #3 How Physically Fit Do You Need To Be?
- #4 What About Plowing?
- #5 What About Avalanches?
- #6 What About Bears?
- #7 What Do I Bring?
- #8 Can My Dog Go, Too?
- #9 Can I Rent a Bike or an E-Bike?
- #10 Where Else Can I Ride in Glacier?
#1 How Long Is The Ride?
It depends on how far the road is plowed, where you start from, and more.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is about 50 miles long in total length. Logan Pass is the highest point, and what most people come to Glacier to see, whether they’re biking in the spring or driving in the summer and fall. So, it depends on which side of Glacier National Park you start. Most people bike from the west side, but not all. If you leave from our office and bike to Logan Pass, you will ride one way about 34 miles / roundtrip 70 miles.
West Side Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road
On the west side, spring car access on the Going to the Sun Road typically ends, and hiker/biker only access begins, at Lake McDonald Lodge (about 10 miles from West Glacier) or Avalanche (about 15 miles from West Glacier). As a result, most bikers begin from one of those two locations.
- Mile –2 – Glacier Guides and Montana Raft
- Mile 0 – West Glacier, Montana (3,215’ elevation)
- Mile 1 – West Glacier Entrance Station
- Mile 11 – Lake McDonald Lodge (3,153’)
- Mile 12 – McDonald Falls, McDonald Creek
- Mile 16 – Avalanche Trailhead/Trail of the Cedars (3,301’)
- Mile 17 – Red Rock Point
- Mile 23 – West Side Tunnel
- Mile 24 – The Loop (4,400’)
- Mile 27 – Bird Woman Falls Overlook
- Mile 28 – Haystack Falls
- Mile 29 – Weeping Wall
- Mile 30 – Big Bend
- Mile 31 – Triple Arches (6,181’)
- Mile 32 – Logan Pass (6,646’)
East Side Biking the Going to the Sun Road
On the east side, car access typically ends at St. Mary or Rising Sun in the spring. As a result, most bikers begin from one of those two locations. Here’s a look at east side biking mileage. Again, these are approximate.
- Mile 0 – St. Mary Visitor Center (4,484’ elevation)
- Mile 6 – Rising Sun (4,537’)
- Mile 7 – Wild Goose Island Overlook
- Mile 9 – Sun Point (4,690’)
- Mile 10 – Sunrift Gorge
- Mile 13 – Jackson Glacier Overlook (5,351’)
- Mile 15 – Siyeh Bend (5,820’)
- Mile 16 – East Side Tunnel
- Mile 17 – The Big Drift
- Mile 18 – Logan Pass (6,646’)
#2 How Much Elevation Do You Gain?
Again, it depends on whether you go all the way to Logan Pass.
- Logan Pass – 6,646′ elevation
- West Glacier – 3,215′ elevation
- St. Mary – 4,448′ elevation
So, if you go all the way to Logan Pass on the west side, you gain 3,431′ in elevation over 32 miles. If you go to Logan Pass from St. Mary, you gain 2,198′ in elevation over 18 miles.
#2.5 What percent grade is the Going-to-the-Sun Road?
As per Glacier Guides alum and noted author Becky Lomax: Either direction crams most of the uphill pedaling into 12 miles at a steady 6 percent grade. It’s relentless enough to make the incline a contender with some of the Tour de France climbs.
#3 How Physically Fit Do I Need To Be?
You do need to possess a certain level of physical fitness to bike to Logan Pass. That being said, we’ve been thrilled over the years watching determined children, more mature folks, and somewhat out of shape people, who’ve all surprised themselves with both how much they enjoyed biking and how far they went.
Just like with hiking, biking is about the journey, not the destination. If you ride from Avalanche, the road starts off relatively flat with only about 200 feet of elevation gain in the first 5 miles. That might be enough for you.
After that, the road starts rising as you begin the climb. At the Loop, you’ll be rewarded with staggering views into Glacier’s alpine sections. And that might be enough for you. Don’t get fixated on Logan Pass – just enjoy your ride!
Overall, it takes a reasonably fit person about 4 hours to bike from Lake McDonald Lodge to Logan Pass. Coming down is faster, but it’s still at least a half a day’s adventure to bike the entirety of the alpine section. Read on below for what to bring.
#4 What About Plowing?
In the spring, how far you can bike on the Going to the Sun Road depends on where the plow crews are working. On the west side, there is typically hiker/biker access to the Loop most of the time. Above the Loop, the plow crews usually work until about 4pm on the weekdays. When they’re done, they open the “road closed” sign at the Loop and then you can bike for as far as plowing conditions permit. In mid-late June, that often means you can bike all the way to Logan Pass!
#5 What About Avalanches?
Hikers and bikers need to be particularly attuned to avalanche-related hazards, similar to those faced by snowmobilers and backcountry skiers. Here’s some avalanche guidance from Glacier National Park, issued in 2019.
#6 What About Bears?
Bears typically begin emerging from their dens in April, so you should definitely have bear spray. We recommend stashing a can in one of the water bottle carriers on your bike — it’s always best practice to keep it handy! Just like with hiking, make noise and let all wildlife, not just bears, know that you’re around.
If you’re on a guided biking tour with us, your guide will have bear spray.
#7 What Do I Bring?
A spare tube, tire pump, and basic bike tools are essential! You should also bring water, food, and layers — just like you would if you were hiking. Remember that no matter how warm and sunny the forecast might be, the road will be wet from melting snow, and you’re likely to get wet, too. Also, it’s always cold riding down. A puffy and gloves are your friends!
Click here for our Glacier National Park Day Trips Packing List – Biking.
#8 Can My Dog Go, Too?
Sorry, but no. During the spring, pets are not permitted past the road closure gates, which are typically at Lake McDonald Lodge or Avalanche on the West Side, and at St. Mary or Rising Sun on the east. Read up on pets in Glacier here.
#9 Can I Rent A Bike or an E- Bike to Ride the Going to the Sun Road?
Yes! If you’re on a self-guided adventure, you can rent regular bikes or e-bikes at our office. You can ride into Glacier National Park from our office on the Gateway to Glacier Bike Trail, which connects to the Going to the Sun Road. If you leave from our office and bike to Logan Pass, you will ride one way about 34 miles / roundtrip 70 miles. Or you can rent a bike carrier from us, drive into Glacier National Park, and bike from there.
#10 What Else Can I Ride In Glacier?
What about biking the Going to the Sun Road in the summer and fall? Mountain biking on trails in the park? Biking other roads? Read our general Biking Glacier FAQ here and read Glacier National Park’s official biking info here.